November 30, 2007

A Devastating Deception

Jeffrey Overstreet has a great Q&A about The Golden Compass up at CT Movies. It's all good reading, but one part in particular caught my eye.

Isn't this just the Harry Potter controversy all over again?

No. This time, there really is a serious problem. But God forbid that we respond to Pullman the way we've responded to J.K. Rowling. We've just been through a decade in which fearful, judgmental people have burned Harry Potter books, called J.K. Rowling a witch, and warned us that children who read her books will become warlocks. (This reminds me of those folks who told me, when I was ten, that if I saw The Empire Strikes Back, I might be lured into Buddhism.) What we missed with Harry Potter was the power of fairy tales, which use magic metaphorically and symbolically to help us understand mysterious concepts and appreciate the marvelous, otherworldly reality of grace.

And we encouraged a generation of children to believe that you can't be a Christian and also value fairy tales—a devastating deception. As Lewis and Tolkien have discussed and proposed, fairy tales reflect the truth of the gospel in a unique and timeless way. In fact, Lewis became a Christian through discussions with Tolkien about fairy tales.

Many Christians also overlooked the fact that, in damning the Potter series, we were persecuting a Christian woman who has admitted that the process of telling those stories was a journey of sorting out her own faith and persistent doubts. We missed that there were Bible verses woven through the stories and glimmering with truth.

But Pullman is a different storyteller. He says, "I've been surprised by how little criticism I've got. Harry Potter's been taking all the flak. I'm a great fan of J.K. Rowling, but the people—mainly from America's Bible Belt—who complain that Harry Potter promotes Satanism or witchcraft obviously haven't got enough in their lives. Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God."

I hadn't thought about it in those terms, but it's true. It's really true. We are in the process of teaching an entire generation of Christian kids that fantasy is wicked and dangerous. Fortunately, a lesson that off-base doesn't take too well. Still . . . what a cataclysmic screw-up.

Posted by Jared at November 30, 2007 10:15 PM | TrackBack